I met Ken when I was 14 and he was a high school junior.He walked into the living room of my family's house in Stockton, California, sweat-soaked from an afternoon playing basketball with my brother.It was four and a half days before his body was found.We first met in a creative writing class at the University of Washington, spring quarter of 1988.He didn’t hesitate to give me his blessing to date whoever and whenever I wanted. I knew that the void that Mark’s death left in my life would never be filled the same way that Mark filled it. As I scanned through the results not many of the profiles interested me.I knew that even as I started dating, I still had to continue to fill my own life with my own positive activities, people, and feelings; I could not put the pressure on someone else to fill Mark’s place—if I did, neither one of us would ever be truly happy. After several pages I started to wonder if I was just being extremely critical because I wasn’t ready.Third, I needed to fully embrace the feeling of being attracted to another person. But in that same moment, I stumbled upon a profile of an attractive man whose profile made me smile.I decided to trust that my body was telling me ‘it’s OK! When I was so wrapped up in the sadness of losing Mark, I had no space to let someone in. He and I met a month later and spent seven hours together on our first date.
We also scribbled our code word, SHMILY ("See how much I love you"), on scraps of paper and hid them in each other's cars so the other person would find them by surprise when we were apart.
The letter said that when you lose a spouse it is normal to want to date, usually sooner rather than later.
I felt guilty even thinking about the possibility and could not fathom the idea of dating so soon after my husband had died. I was worried you would never want to date again after Mark.
It took two years before I worked up the courage to talk to him, yet once I did, we instantly felt a connection.
By the time Ken left for college in San Diego, he had become my first serious boyfriend.